My Top Philosophy Books of 2018

OK, I confess: my favourite philosophy book of 2018 was actually published in 2016 and it is American Philosophy: A Love Story, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In his remarkably riveting enquiry into the ‘zeitgeist’ of early twentieth-century American academe, John Kaag recreates the confident and life-affirming philosophy of William Ernest Hocking, a neglected thinker overshadowed by his mentor Josiah Royce and by William James whose Principles of Psychology prompted Hocking to study philosophy at Harvard. Kaag mixes erudition and ...

Brumadinho Landslide in Brazil

The Brumadinho landslide occurred on 26 January 2019 in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. To date, around 60 bodies have been recovered from the Brumadinho landslide but almost 300 are still missing. Although bodies were recovered it proved very difficult to identify them. The current disaster happened just three years after the collapse of another tailings (waste materials) dam, near the town of Mariana, also in the state of Minas Gerais. It killed 19 people, forced many people to ...

“No sevens ever seem to be awarded? Even sixes are rare…”

In my last workshop, a teacher commented “One particular post on My IB raised an issue that has been on my mind a lot lately, the question of how to coach my students to get a seven - or near as possible to it – when no sevens ever seem to be awarded? Even sixes are rare, it seems.”  Another teacher replied "…no sevens ever seem to be awarded? Even sixes are rare - Okay, this is my first year doing the ...

The Patterning Instinct

Now and again a book comes out which seems to put its finger on a central issue regarding the nature of human knowledge and its consequences. Such a book, for me, is The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent (May 2017, Prometheus Books). The book’s subtitle, a cultural history of humanity’s search for meaning, encapsulates its focus, scope and ambitions. It attempts to identify the hidden patterns which have shaped human cultures and how the latter have been expressed in terms ...

“Oh No He Isn’t!”: The Magical World of the British Panto

'To see a pantomime is to see the ridiculous simplicity of the world through the eyes of a child.' Anon 'I am grim all day, but I make you laugh at night.' Joseph Grimaldi Snow White - Holiday Panto - Throckmorton TheatreSource: Fabrice Florin (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Flickr If you are lucky enough to be in the UK during the months of December and January, then you would be immersed in a theatrical world that comes across as slightly crazy. A ...

Literature into Film, and a Poem

Assuming you might have a bit a breathing and reflection time as the New Year begins,  you might find this article, which you can access online through the 6 free articles offered by JSTOR, relevant to what you are doing in your classroom.  We all, I think, use film versions of literary works for one purpose or another in our explorations of texts.  Some of you may currently have students offering their IOPs on cinematic adaptations of works they have ...

Blast from the Past

Thirty Years Ago In December I thought I’d dig a little into some IBDP visual arts memories and look at the course as it was 30 years ago, when I was a young and eager art teacher (not so young now but still eager!). I confess I have a slight tendency to hoard, and up in the loft there are many boxes of ‘old stuff’. Some of it dates from the 1980s – a period when computers were primitive by today’s standards ...

Isaiah Berlin and the Vexing Issue of Liberty

When Isaiah Berlin died in 1997, his conceptions of liberty and value pluralism were to be read within the dying tradition of totalitarian politics, as implemented by Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. For the Russian-born thinker whose family escaped to England in 1921, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx were directly responsible for a warped interpretation of freedom enabling the state to force its citizens to conform to its own needs and ethereal collective aspirations.  His answer was a more realistic solution that ...

The Halogens

Topic 3.2 of the periodic table deals with periodic trends. In particular, under the applications and skills section, we are told to 'discuss the similarities and differences in the properties of elements in the same group, with reference to the halogens (group 17).' In this month’s blog, I thought I would share with you my way of teaching this particular aspect of the course. It goes without saying that the halogens are toxic, poisonous and in general pretty nasty. You the teacher ...

Dunning Kruger Analysis

Dunning who? Dunning Kruger Analysis is doing the rounds in my school – it's the current buzz phrase. I've been in this game for too long and am always sceptical of new initiatives, but this one did catch my eye and I think it has some mileage. The theory has been around for nearly 20 years and was first applied, like a lot of the new ideas coming into teaching via business models. The idea works by applying the idea the people who do ...